Horizons in the Commons

The middle school students attending our Horizons at Harley program this summer are given a variety of expeditions to pursue. These two-week-long courses offer them the change to really dig into some hands-on learning and then take trips around the Rochester area which support the material learned in the classes. One of these expeditions has been to learn more about the systems of the Commons, taught by Seth O’Bryan.

Six rising 8th Grade students spent two weeks learning about various components of the Commons building–energy consumption, ventilation, solar power, and more. Today’s class was spent exploring the solar chimneys and how they can passively heat or cool the larger rooms of the Commons. The two solar chimneys were set differently–one was vented openĀ  and one was sealed shut. The students predicted whether the air in the chimneys was warmer or cooler than the air in the 2nd and 3rd floor classroom spaces. Once their predictions were made (and it was mixed 50/50 for hotter or colder), the students then went to the Control Room to adjust the vents from the solar chimneys to the rooms–opening them on the west side and closing them on the east side. One student stayed in the Control Room adjusting the vent louver settings for the various spaces while the other students quickly ran to the rooms to feel the air flow and temperature change.

The students determined that the air in the solar chimneys was warmer than the air in the classrooms, and by closing the vents, the rooms heated up. On a warm day like today, the air flow from the rooms into the chimneys served to keep the rooms cool and pull the warmer air out and up to vent outside. The class will take a culminating trip on Friday to RIT to learn more about the LEED platinum certified Living Lab at their Golisano Institute for Sustainability.


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